£3m spent on agency staff by Wolverhampton City Council

Consultants and agency workers employed by a cash-strapped council have cost almost £3 million, it has emerged.

£3m spent on agency staff by Wolverhampton City Council

Wolverhampton City Council is preparing to axe 1,000 of its own workers as it tries to cut £98m from its budget.

Ruling Labour councillors have blamed the cuts on the coalition government for slashing their funding. But Conservatives say the authority should do more to use its own staff rather than bringing in costly outside help.

The total figure for agency workers and consultants over 22 weeks since April was revealed in a response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act.

It showed consultancy fees came to £1.1m and agency fees cost just under £1.8m. Consultants working on a programme to overhaul finance, human resources, payroll and procurement cost £434,597.

Agency staff have been used across the council, including £112,100 spent in the human resources department, where work to replace outdated computer systems is expected to cut jobs but also reduce costs.

Agency staff are also used to help adults needing care and cost £182,342 while the council's children's and families' services spent £217,650.

Opposition Tory leader, Councillor Neville Patten, said: "It seems the council has lost its way if it needs all these consultants to tell it what to do."

Councillor Andrew Johnson, Wolverhampton City Council's cabinet member for resources, said: "Interim and consultancy support offers the council a flexible and cost-effective way of securing the specialist expertise that the organisation needs from time to time.

"While the authority is under unprecedented pressure from central Government cuts, interims provide the expertise we need without adding to the costs of our staffing establishment.

"We make sure that there's a robust business case for them and that there's a clear benefit for council taxpayers.

"We're using this temporary expertise in a variety of ways, for example, to deliver large-scale capital programmes such as the £270 million Building Schools for the Future, which is transforming secondary schools in the city.

"Temporary support is also helping the council replace its outdated mainframe system and transform finance, human resources, payroll and procurement. Of course, we sometimes need expertise to cover areas that are suffering a national skills shortage in delivery of services for looked after children and the elderly.

"The council will never be able to keep on its establishment all the specialist support it needs, so having access to it in this way is the sensible way forward."

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